Citizen Initiative to create consumer-owned power company in Maine moves forward

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 3:23 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW)- An effort to buy out Maine’s two foreign-owned utilities to create a consumer-owned utility known as Pine Tree Power Company is moving forward and could be on the statewide ballot in Nov. 2023.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced Wednesday that supporters did collect enough valid signatures on petitions for a citizen’s initiative. Bellows said there were 69,735 valid signatures and 10,419 signatures that were not valid. A total of 63,067 valid signatures were required.

As per the state Constitution, the initiative now goes to the Legislature for consideration. The Legislature can choose to enact the bill as written or to send it forward to a statewide vote in November 2023.

In July 2021, Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that would have created Pine Tree Power. She said that bill was hastily drafted and amended in the legislature, but she acknowledged that Maine’s utilities need to perform better.

Supporters have said Pine Tree Power would lower bills for the state’s 800,000 electricity ratepayers, while opponents have argued that a consumer-owned utility would be more costly for Mainers.

Opponents quickly responded Wednesday to the news that the citizen’s initiative is moving forward.

“Our affiliated unions work every day to build and grow Maine and its middle class. We heard all sides of the issue. We appreciated a thoughtful and lively debate. But in the end, there was little doubt that the proposed takeover of our power grid would not only cost Maine taxpayers $13.5 billion but also functionally cost workers their voice on the job,” said Jason J. Shedlock, President of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council and Regional Organizer with the Laborers’ International Union.

Our Power Responds to Secretary of State’s Signature Announcement:

November 30, 2022, PORTLAND, ME

Today, Maine’s Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced that the certification of petitions for “An Act To Create the Pine Tree Power Company, a Nonprofit, Customer-owned Utility” is complete and her office confirmed that 69,735 valid signatures were submitted for the initiative, enough to move forward to the November 2023 ballot.

Our Power’s Executive Director Andrew Blunt issued the following statement in response: “Thanks to the heroic effort of hundreds of volunteers across the state, Maine voters will now have the chance to choose between our two failing, foreign-owned power companies, CMP and Versant, and one owned by Maine people.”

“With rates through the roof and a hard winter ahead, Mainers are more ready than ever for a local power company that lowers our bills instead of making wealthy corporations richer,” he continued.

John Brautigam, former State Representative and Our Power Board President, weighed in as well: “This shows that Mainers want to keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets. Mainers are tired of seeing their rates go just up to fatten the wallets of stockholders who couldn’t find Maine on a map. After a year of connecting with Maine people and collecting signatures from almost every town in the state, we are proud to offer a brighter future for our state’s electric grid and cheaper power for Maine ratepayers.”

The Maine Legislature will now consider this initiative, which would replace Central Maine Power and Versant Power with a nonprofit, Maine-owned utility. Legislators will have the opportunity to enact the bill as written or to send it forward to a statewide vote on the November 2023 ballot.